I often complain about the 1960s. It seems unfair that due to a collision of luck and metaphysical forces outside my command, I reached my 20s not in a decade which celebrated peace, love and swing, but one ruled by emotional, faux-suicidal teenagers and men in tight jeans. This Valentine’s Day finally shut me up: the hippie movement is alive and well, right here in the heart of London.
Reclaim Love is described as, somewhat misleadingly, a pavement party. Misleading, because it conjures up images of things like the Notting Hill Carnival and NYE shenanigans, while in reality it is no more than a hundred people, getting their groove on around the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus. It’s no less strange though. The people at the epicentre of it all looked like they were teleported there from Woodstock. 1964 Woodstock.
The party was hosted by a group called Operation Infinite Love. Refreshingly in these times, they aren’t an events company. They aren’t a registered charity and the point isn’t to make you buy T-shirts. They aren’t promoting their same-name band or secretly trying to get kids to smoke pot. They’re just nice people who, if you ask me, really have their heads screwed on straight.
Feel-good music hits engulfed the event like a soft, warm, Valentine blanket. They had the Beatles, they had the ’90s dance classics. Girls and guys held up ‘free hugs’ signs and dopey-looking hippies doodled chalk hearts on the pavement. People danced. I haven’t felt so un-self-conscious and un-judged since I was about six – that’s how great the atmosphere was.
A group of Japanese girls suddenly freaked out and started manically photographing a few guys hanging out on the statue steps – they were probably famous, but who the hell knows. One of them kind of looked like Mark Hamill, which only confirmed the whole time warp theory.
Of course, there are always the skeptics. While all the free-lovin’, dreadlock-swingin’ action took place at Eros’s metallic, apathetic feet, the energy seemingly drained out of the outer bounds of the crowd, which was comprised by gawking passers-by, people rolling their eyes and American tourists subscribing to the ‘damn filthy hippies’ philosophy. Well they can get stuffed: Reclaim Love is in its sixth year, and shows no signs of retreating into the same miserable, depressed hole populated by The City’s investment bankers and irritated singles.
If you ask me, once a year and one geographical spot is nowhere near enough. This event should be made mandatory in every London postcode and take place every Wednesday at lunchtime. Maybe an hour of uninhibited, colourful, happy dancing once a week is just what London needs to beat the doom and gloom of recession and the remaining cold winter weeks. Maybe those of you who were outside the love circle shouldn’t roll your eyes next time, but push your way right in and hug that grey-haired hippie in the AC/DC T-shirt: you never know, you might even have fun for a change.
Reclaim Love takes place annually on February 14